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Short post tonight. I just bought some land in Second Life this weekend and set up an art gallery, event, and proposal mock-up space there. It’s outstandingly cool!

I made a video of the space to help communicate what it looks like and how useful it can be – especially to emerging artists. I’ll be taking proposals for juried shows, events, etc (especially from DC artsits!). In a few days, I’ll provide some more details as to what I’d like to see done with it.

Pay attention to this: SL is building quite the art scene and market!

The location is “Spirit Fens 38,38,22” in Second Life.

Alternatively, Click HERE to get a map (even if you don’t have the client installed). If you do have the client, you can teleport in from the map.

(Unrelated Top Edit since this doesn’t need its own post: I’ve added my technical resume to this site in the Pages section if anyone is curious. I’m trying to consolidate the “plethora” of online personalities I’ve built up over the years.)

The past two or three weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of energy in and around the art world (and writing), but have been too busy to actually produce anything myself. This weekend I was determined to change that. For whatever reason, though, I just couldn’t bring myself to do another portrait. Honestly, I think it’s because I haven’t come across any faces that have really inspired me lately. So, instead (and because it had been a long time since I had drawn buildings or anything else that requires real perspective in a piece) I chose to use a slice of DC itself. I wanted to try and make an expressive portrait of a scene completely devoid of people.

What I ended up drawing was a cell phone capture of 3 or 4 unused buildings on Eye Street in Washington, DC just north east of China Town. I had taken it last Sunday while I was out in the area with Art Outlet folk. The street corner isn’t particularly special – it looks a lot like many other DC streets – but I thought the mix of building color (especially the boarded up windows) in contrast to all of the flat gray surroundings would be interesting. The rules I set for myself were: no rulers, no measurement markers, and a one hour max completion time. What came out was this:

sketch of 459 Eye Street, Washington, DC, in conte crayon

 

(More to come later, this post has been interrupted by an artoutlet.org meeting.)

Now back. As I was saying… The above picture is obviously not going for intricate detail. All of the squares repeating really gets tedious. Instead, I tried to use some of the same techniques I use for face portraits (namely to get down the main details that strike me as the most interesting and core to the feeling of the face) and apply them to a city scene. In this case, I thought these were the specific things that held it together:

  • The green window area of the second building
  • The burnt/exposed brick area on the side of the second building
  • The blue/white split of the third building
  • The fire escape on the 2nd/3rd story of the second building
  • The window repetition of the furthest (office) building
  • The blue dumpster in front of the third building
  • The fence next to the second building
  • Tree branches and the sign coming in from the right side
  • The yellow boarded windows (others were grey)

Once all of these things were represented somehow on paper (just enough so they were recognizeable), the other details didn’t really matter so much and could be fudged. How many windows there are on the last building or what exactly they look like really doesn’t change the character and feeling of the scene at all. The detail of the black car past the dumpster didn’t matter either, the subjects of the piece were the buildings and not the things around them. As long as some bare minimum context was provided, the main points identified above were sufficient for the purposes of expression.

I think the portrait techniques worked and, if not technically brilliant, I think the piece that came out has a definite personality.

(As a side note, I pencil sketched this first and added the conte crayon on top. The pencil itself would never have caught enough of the feeling to allow for an expressionist attempt like this without a lot more attention to detail.)

…and what amazing things a little bit of shine does for art. Yesterday morning, I braved the not as cold as I expected weather to head over to framer’s workroom to get another couple of pieces framed for upcoming shows and entries. The two pieces – Almost Like Stars and Smear Painted Wax Faces (renamed in my head from Pink Hat Cowboy) – look amazingly better framed. There’s a “finished” look behind glass that paper works just don’t have otherwise. Both were framed with the same, simple dark wooden frame (a departure from Gun Appeal, for which I used an incredibly ornate frame to highlight the intended feel of the piece). The matting for both of them (ALS’ is a beige, flesh color and SPWF has a speckled off-white) really brings out the colors I wanted them to.

SPWF, in particular, benefitted from the surrounding color. His green eyes really pop out more than they did before. There are so many other colors all over that piece that they apparently really needed a firm, bright anchor around the piece to enhance the contrast. I can see his eye color from here, ten feet away. I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to otherwise. It’s a great example of what to look for in a matte…not just a color that looks good, but one that brings out the features you want to highlight in particular.

ALS, on the other hand, already has a lot of contrasting solid sections of color. Those didn’t need enhancement. What I was looking for, instead, was a softer color to help group in the contrasts and tie them together. The beige is almost (to my eye) an average of the rest of the colors in the picture. I was originally thinking of just using a neutral white, but one of my favorite features of the piece is the unfinished white area in the bottom right section of the drawing. It’s part of the whole experience and a white matte just wouldn’t have accented that at all. Going with something darker helps to reign in that big expanse of nothing and keep it part of the whole picture.

Almost Like Stars Conte Crayon PortraitSmear Painted Wax Faces Oil Pastel Portrait

I had forgotten how big Almost Like Stars (left) is (30″ high with frame) and Smear Painted Wax Faced (right) ended up being smalled than expected (21″ high with frame).

Mr. Smith was a very strange man. His red-jowled face frightened me; his personal life stories made me slightly queasy. Huddled in protective groups, like circled wagons, we created mythologies about him in hastily penned notes on scraps of paper. More than one epic short poem made harsh reference to his blank, alchoholic looking eyes. But, in my freshman year of High School, Mr. Smith gave me a great gift. He taught me to write.

Not that I am, mind you, particularly brilliant in this regard. I will never be able to pour my thoughts down through the keys straight into prose that will, by virtue of its universal appeal, create peace on earth. My spelling and grammar will always make an editor wince. No, what Mr. Smith did for me was not that. What he showed me, instead, was how to sculpt and to craft and to massage these foreign looking symbols into an ordered parade that more clearly expressed my thoughts. Prior to that year I had been using commas and other punctuation like table salt – sprinkle a little here, sprinkle a little there. I just could -not- grasp sentence structure to save my life (or anyone elses). Adjectives, I got those! Adverbs, we were best friends! Hanging it all together? Meh, not so much. I just couldn’t get the hang of making something coherent, something with rhythm.

Freshman english, though, and Mr. Smith in particular, gave me a very specific insight that would change how I looked at words and how I approached the whole “writing thing” – even though I’m not entirely sure he intended to. The revelation was that a piece of writing is a thing in and of itself. It tends to run in a linear fashion when you read it, but that’s just coincidental to its nature. The real, true fact of a piece of writing – whether it’s a novel, an article, or an email – is that it’s an object. It can be built. It doesn’t have to be done in order. It can be shaved, trimmed, buffed, rearranged, and ultimatelty engineered into a finished product. The sentences, the paragraphs, and the grammar are all part of an orchestra that work together for a common goal, completely out of time. (I swear, I’m not using these words to add a bit of flourish to this entry, they’re really the terms I use in my head.)

Somehow, this concept made grammar and syntax and putting words down on paper “click” for me and gave me a solid mentral framework on which to hang my future development. I’m not sure if I ever would’ve gotten it in quite the same way otherwise. “But”, you might be wondering, “why is he bringing this up here? and now?”

I”m bringing it up because I’ve recently noticed how similar my approaches to creating art and to writing are. When I work on a piece of art, whether it’s in conte crayon, pastel, pencil, charcoal, paint, or whatever, the process reminds me a lot of sculpting. There is something beneath the paper, something that already exists, that needs to be fleshed out. I’m not creating something new at all, just trying to reveal what’s in my head. I’ll put markers down here and there on the paper, quick gesture lines or dabs of color where I’m most sure of the form and the shape. Then I’ll fill in some detail where I already intimately know what it should look like. After that, I begin to connect the two and use what’s on the paper to imply what should come next. It’s an iterative effort that does not follow an “outline to detail to completion” process. It does not go left to right, top to bottom. The process is almost like completing a jigsaw puzzle. One piece put in place hints at what the next should be.

In writing, I work almost exactly the same way. I’ll either start out with a detail, or I’ll know my hook, or else I’ll just throw something arbitrarily down and let it work itself out from there. One thought leads to the next. My instructors (Jody Jaffe and John Muncie) in the Feature Writing class called “interviewing” a “directed conversation”. I like that term and my writing and art processes work the same way for me. I know basically what I want to get out of it, but the “conversation” I have with myself, my materials, and the piece of paper is its own thing and I just ride the process until the idea has been fully exposed.

It’s interesting to me that writing and other arts are so similar. The process is the same, just the materials of expression change.

In the next several months, it looks like we (speaking with an artoutlet.org hat on) are going to be having at least two more shows that we’ll be looking for artists to participate in. One will be a self-portrait focused event and the other will revolve around more “active” art: anything that moves, shines, has electrons flowing through it, involves live performance, thinks, connects to the internet, or is in any way interactive.

The self-portrait show I expect to be juried and I’m not sure about the other event – details are at their early stages. I do believe, though, that we’re going to have a different taste and style from other shows. So, if you’re in the area of greater Washington, DC (or want to show your artistry here) and happen across this post, feel free to contact me  or info@artoutlet.org (until the artoutlet page has something official up) – even if you haven’t considered showing before. I’m very much interested in finding interesting, moving, fascinating art – regardless of what the art world in general is doing or has done. If it works, it works.

(Bear in mind this is still tenative and I’ll put out a more formal call here when things are firmed up – but I’d still like to hear from you in the mean time. These are community events, first and foremost, so your questions and comments are absolutely considered and welcomed.)

God I hate writing HTML, and that’s pretty much why there isn’t going to be a more detailed FLUX post. To do it right, I’d need to futz around with actual page creation and such to link all the pictures to the sound files, organize them, etc. So, instead, I’ll put that in the background and move on with more current news.

There are pretty much three main, interralated things going on with my art right now. First of all, Henrik (of artoutlet) really liked the install I did and my overall portrait work enough to ask me to be on staff at artoutlet as a part of their Art Selection & Art Proposal group. This means, at least initially, that I’ll at least be helping out with jurying and planning some of their upcoming events. I’m really excited about the opportunity and can’t wait to get started.

On a related note, the process of doing the install at FLUX has gotten me seriously interested in doing another one. I’d like to focus on digital displays and self-illuminated works in the near future and have started investigating some digital photo frames and DIY ideas for framing laptops. Specifically, I’d like to present some of the more aesthetically pleasing information visualizations I do in an installation and some sort of self-lit display for them would really add to their impact (especially in a darker environment). Id like to use wooden frames for them to bring them closer to the tangible real world as art and out of some more abstract, almost imaginary cyber world. This emphasis on real isn’t arbitrary: The underlying data I use was created by or materially impacts real life. Whether it’s audit trails of hacking attempts or records of online activity, it’s all stuff people have done – and that is in keeping with my overall fascination with people and their daily lives. This, in fact, ties in with my ultimate goal for the next two to three months: To do a cyber self portrait of myself using self-lit, wall mounted, wood framed advizor graphs.

What do you all think? The image below is an example of what they look like:

Sources Firing

This isn’t -my- information, but I’d like to put about three different similar, but animated views of my own traffic up together. It should look really slick.

Longer term, this interest realy is turning into a desire to explore art that does not distinguish between old style, non digital, work done in traditional media and more current presentation frameworks. I also like the idea of using individual pieces of stand alone art as part of one one larger “system of systems”piece.

Anyway, I’m off to Brad the Photographer’s shindig elsewhere in DC.

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